When the going gets tough, sometimes it helps me to take a step back. Actually, it doesn't just help; it's completely necessary. You can step back and look at the situation from another angle, or you can step back and try to remember what you were doing before things started going off the tracks, and either way the footing might be a little more secure than it is now. Two nights ago I had a panic attack; last night I had a surprisingly productive practice session, an invigorating and enlightening phone date with a friend, and made the best brussels sprouts I've ever had, bastardized slightly* on a whim from this recipe. Which is more important, the bad and hopefully isolated incident or the string of affirming and positive ones? It's hard to say, and I hesitate to even begin to quantify such things, so I won't. What matters is what I take away, and for that I'm sticking with the brussels sprouts.
During my conversation last night, it came up that some people believe that your romantic partner is the one who is supposed to offer you the most support, to help you the most with difficult things, to be the most there for you. I interrupted, surprising myself with my vehemence: "No! You have to be that for yourself!" My voice was loud, and my blood was up, and I felt unexpectedly angry. It felt sort of good. It reminded me that, actually, I do believe that. I believe that the most important person for each of us should be ourselves, and I don't believe that that denigrates our partners. In fact, it's like flattery: I'm so awesome and I can take care of myself and I'm totally a self-sufficient grown-up person, and hey, I'm dating you! So you're awesome too! I believe that your sense of self should be as precious to you as something shiny and golden and full of weight, that you should hold it close and defend it fiercely. How can you expect to relate to somebody else as an equal if you don't believe that you are equals?
Even though I'm pretty sure that people who believe in the partner-as-supporter ideal would agree with me that a strong sense of self-worth, self-sufficiency, is important, they sure as hell aren't saying it. They've saying that somebody else is responsible for your happiness, for your ability to be awesome; they're saying that you can shift that difficult task to somebody else, and they will take care of it for you. But if you don't have an internal support structure, if you don't trust and believe in and love and fully appreciate yourself, how can you expect somebody else to provide that for you? I think that can only breed laziness at best and resentment at worst. I feel like I've heard (or seen enacted, or intuited the presence of) the partner argument a lot more times than I've heard the self argument; I think that we give a lot of lip service to self-awesomeness, but I think there's a cultural tendency to raise our glasses to ourselves and then go right on leaning on the people we love the most.
I'm still worked up. This is probably partially--although not entirely; this stuff is important--because I've been having a hard time with this myself lately, not the leaning-on-my-partners part so much as the believing-in-myself part. I'm having difficulty seeing my own value. Hence panic attacks. Hence depressed days. Hence feeling like I'm being needy when I'm asking for things that are totally legitimate things to ask for, like help with the dishes or comfort after an upsetting experience. If I don't believe I have worth, then asking for something sounds like this in my head: "Can you maybe possibly do this tiny thing for me? I know I totally don't in any way deserve it and I haven't done anything to warrant your doing this thing for me, but maybe you are so nice that you'll do it anyway." It annoys the shit out of me, and furthermore, it isn't true. I know that. So why is it still happening?
A step back. Before I began this relationship, I believed I had worth. My relationship didn't change that, and I still believe it in my heart, but there's a disconnect between my heart and my head that scares me enough that I want to take a step back. Just one, just inside my own head. I don't know what's going on, but it can stop. There can be more brussels sprouts, less panic attacks. My partners are amazing. I am amazing. Believing that is the first step. I can go on from there.
*I added some garlic because I was short on shallots and used white vinegar instead of apple cider.